U.S. Markets open in 1 hr 55 mins

SABMiller's veteran chairman dies of cancer

Graham Mackay, Chief Executive, SABMiller, of Britain, attends a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, in this file January 25, 2012 photo. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

LONDON (Reuters) - Graham Mackay, the chairman of SABMiller (SAB.L) and one of the best-known figures in the global beer industry, died on Wednesday from cancer. He was 64.

Mackay spent 35 years at SABMiller, steering its transformation from an industrial conglomerate to the world's second-largest brewer with annual sales of $34.5 billion and 200 brands including Miller Lite, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.

He was chief executive from 1999 when the company - then called South African Breweries - listed on the London Stock Exchange, until April this year when he took a medical leave of absence following surgery on a brain tumor.

He recovered enough to resume his duties as chairman in September. His condition suddenly worsened in November, and he took a further leave.

Mackay died peacefully on Wednesday morning, the company said, surrounded by his family, which includes three adult sons and three school-age sons.

The board said on Wednesday it had appointed acting chairman John Manser as chairman until a long-term successor can be found. Guy Elliott will take Manser's place as a senior independent director.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Jane Merriman and Tom Pfeiffer)